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TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, Clear or NEXUS: Which Is Best?

These programs can get you in and out of airports faster. Learn how to choose the right one for your travels.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops | Desktops | All-in-one PCs | Streaming devices | Streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
10 min read
TSA security check at Denver international airport
John Greim/Getty Images

Traveling can include a number of inconveniences, from long security lines to time-consuming immigration screenings. Programs like TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, Clear and NEXUS can help you save time and avoid potential headaches by letting you breeze through airport security lines. In some cases, you can even access these programs through your credit card's benefits.

The comparisons below are based on independent testing by our editors, including their experiences traveling for both business and pleasure. It's a big world out there!

Travel programs compared

TSA PreCheckGlobal EntryClearNEXUS
Benefits Get through TSA faster; leave electronics in your bag and shoes onNo processing lines or paperwork; expedited entry benefits in other countries; reduced wait times; free TSA PreCheck Expedited security checks; quick identity verification at airports and sports eventsPass between the US and Canada easier
Base price $78$100$189$50
Duration of membership Five yearsFive yearsOne yearFive years
Participating venues AirportsAirportsAirports and stadiumsAirports, border crossings and marine ports
Time to approval Three to five daysUp to 11 monthsMinutes18 to 20 months
Interview locations IDEMIA and Telos facilities throughout the USGlobal Entry Enrollment Centers in every stateAirports and stadiumsUS and Canadian customs offices
Administered by TSA, IDEMIA and TelosUS Customs and Border Protection ClearCanada Border Services Agency and US Customs and Border Protection

TSA PreCheck

With more than 15 million members, TSA PreCheck is the most popular of the expedited airport screening programs. It's run by the Transportation Security Administration and lets you use special TSA PreCheck security lines at the airport instead of fighting your way through the main security lines with everyone else. The screening itself is also expedited because you don't need to take off your shoes or remove your laptop, among other items, from your bag when going through a TSA PreCheck checkpoint.

Who's it for?

All US citizens and lawful permanent residents are eligible. Kids 12 and under can go through the TSA PreCheck line with their member parents.

What does it do?

Not only will the line at TSA PreCheck likely be shorter than what you'll encounter at the regular airport security checkpoint, but you'll go through more quickly because you won't need to remove your shoes, belt or light jacket, or take your laptop or liquids out of your bag.


How does it work?

Once you've been approved and paid your $78, you'll get a Known Traveler Number. When you book a flight, you must add your KTN to your reservation, which will allow you to use the TSA PreCheck security lane at the airport.

Where can I use it?

There are more than 200 participating US airports and 80 participating airlines across the US.

What's the cost?

TSA PreCheck costs $78 for five years. You can pay with a credit card, debit card, money order, company check or certified/cashier's check. Renewing TSA PreCheck after your first five years costs $70 for another five years if you renew online.

How do I apply?

It's a two-step process:

  1. Fill out an online TSA PreCheck application and schedule an in-person appointment for a background check. There are more than 380 enrollment centers for the in-person interview. Unlike in the early years of the program, they're not all located in airports, either.
  2. Go to the appointment to answer questions for the background check and get fingerprinted.

The TSA estimates that the online application takes five minutes to fill out, and the in-person appointment takes 10 minutes to complete.

Global Entry

Global Entry is a no-brainer if you like the idea of TSA PreCheck but travel internationally. Run by US Customs and Border Protection, this program includes free TSA PreCheck but also lets you get through customs more quickly when entering the US.

Who's it for?

International travelers going by air, land or sea can benefit. To be eligible, you need to be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, or a citizen of the following countries: Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan or the UK. Kids will need their own Global Entry membership at the same cost as adults.

What does it do?

Global Entry lets you skip the long line at customs as well as the paperwork and awkward interviews with a customs agent when returning to the US. Instead, Global Entry members can use a self-serve kiosk. The program also includes TSA PreCheck to get you through airport security faster.


Where can I use it?

You can use Global Entry at dozens of airports in the US, including Guam, Saipan and Puerto Rico. It's also available in some major Canadian airports (Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg) as well as a handful of other international airports (Abu Dhabi, Aruba, Bermuda, Dublin, Grand Bahamas, Nassau). That's in addition to the advantages of a full TSA PreCheck membership, which you can use at over 200 US airports.

What's the cost?

Global Entry costs $100 for five years. You can pay by credit card or through an electronic bank transfer.

How do I apply?

Similar to TSA PreCheck, you need to fill out an online application. Start by creating a Trusted Traveler Program account. Then, complete the application for Global Entry (which includes the nonrefundable $100 fee). Once you're conditionally accepted, schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center and pass a background check. For your in-person interview, you will need a valid passport and one other form of identification, such as a driver's license. Lawful permanent residents must present their machine-readable permanent resident card.

How does it work?

Look for the dedicated Global Entry kiosks at customs when entering the US at participating airports. The ATM-style kiosk snaps a photo and asks you the same sort of questions you'd get on hand-written immigration forms (for instance, whether you are bringing in fruit or whether you are carrying more than $10,000 in cash). If the answer to those questions is no, you can hand off the printed receipt to an immigration officer who checks your passport and be on your way in as little as two minutes. 

You will also get a Global Entry ID card, but that's only needed for land and sea entry from Mexico or Canada. (If you're not familiar with the SENTRI and NEXUS programs related to those respective countries, you probably don't need to worry about this.)


Unlike TSA PreCheck and Global Entry, Clear is run by a private company, not the government. It lets you jump to the front of the main security line or the TSA PreCheck line at the airport. Instead of waiting to show your ID and boarding pass to the TSA agent, you can scan your eyes and fingerprints at a Clear kiosk, then be escorted to the front of the security line.

Clear only lets you skip the line. You'll still need to remove your shoes, belt, laptop and liquids when you go through security unless you're also a member of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

Who's it for?

Air travelers who hate long lines and are willing to scan their eyes and fingers will benefit from Clear. To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old and have one of these photo IDs: a US driver's license, US passport, US passport card, US-issued Permanent Resident Card, state-issued ID or US military ID.

What does it do?

Clear lets you skip the airport security line, but you'll still need to go through regular security screening. It saves you from needing to present your ID and boarding pass to a TSA agent after standing in the security line. Instead, you can use a Clear kiosk to scan your eyes and fingerprints. After that, a Clear employee escorts you to the front of the line for security screening. You'll need to take off your shoes and belt and remove your laptop and liquids from your carry-on unless you also have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.


How does it work?

Your eyes and fingerprints are scanned when you enroll. You can then use those biometrics to zip through the Clear lane at an airport or stadium instead of the regular security line. With the Health Pass, you can add a digital vaccine card to prove your vaccination credentials. 

Where can I use it?

Clear isn't as widespread as TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. It's available in a select number of airports as well as a handful of stadiums.

What's the cost?

Clear is pricier than TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. It costs $189 per year, and you can add up to three family members for $60 each per year. Kids under 18 can use the Clear kiosk when traveling with a Clear family member. 

Clear is the priciest of the three programs, but it's also the only one that offers a free trial. You can try it free for two months.

Delta and United frequent flyers can get a deal on Clear. For Delta, Clear is free for Diamond Medallion members; $149 a year for Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members; and $179 a year for general SkyMiles members. For United, Clear is free for Premier 1K members and $149 a year for United credit card members in the US and Platinum, Gold and Silver Premier members. It's $179 a year for MileagePlus members.

What is Clear Sports?

For stadium entry only, a Clear Sports membership is free and lets you bring one guest with you through the Clear security lane.

How do I apply?

Clear is the most expensive program, but it's the easiest to join. You fill out an application online and finish the process at an airport or stadium that offers Clear. There's no need for a separate trip to an enrollment center, and you can start using Clear on the same day you enroll.


Who's it for?

Anyone traveling between the US and Canada on a regular basis may want NEXUS. It makes it easier and faster to cross the border no matter your mode of transportation.

What does it do?

The program expedites processing upon entry into the US and Canada.

How does it work?

NEXUS members are pre-scanned before heading to the border and are able to cross more quickly via land, air or sea.

Where can I use it?

You'll have access to dedicated processing lanes at border crossings, as well as NEXUS kiosks in airports and at marine reporting locations. You can also use Global Entry kiosks when entering the US from Canada.

What's the cost?

NEXUS is $50 for a five-year membership.

How do I apply?

Apply online via the Trusted Travelers Program website. You'll undergo risk assessment by both the US and Canada as part of the application and registration process.

Which service should you get?

The best service for you depends on your travel habits. If you do a lot of domestic travel in the US, TSA PreCheck will cut down on the time you spend in security lines. Global Entry is best for international travelers since it expedites the often-slow immigration process. NEXUS is ideal for travelers who go between the US and Canada regularly. Clear is the most expensive choice and isn't the best option for airports, but for avid sports fans, it can get you to your seat quickly. 

Global Entry is the best overall option. One CNET writer once called it "the best $100 I ever spent" -- and the first time you use it, you'll probably agree. Global Entry folds in all of the advantages of TSA PreCheck, including much faster and less invasive TSA security checks, but adds an express line through customs and immigration on your way back into the US from international airports and destinations. If you have a passport, this is the one to get.

TSA PreCheck is the best option if you don't have a passport. If you only travel domestically, TSA PreCheck will make flying a less onerous process. But if you take even one international trip in the next five years, you may kick yourself if you don't pay the extra $22 for Global Entry.

We don't recommend Clear at its current price. The base price of Clear feels prohibitive unless you're a frequent flyer -- particularly a Delta or United frequent flyer. It's almost $200 for one year, versus just $100 for five years of Global Entry. It also doesn't get you the quicker TSA PreCheck security check, so you're probably still going to want to invest in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck anyway. Delta and United Airlines frequent flyers can get a discount, but Clear just doesn't seem worth it for most travelers planning to take only a trip or two a year. However ...

Clear Sports is worthwhile for sports fans and concertgoers in select cities. No, this doesn't really have anything to do with airports or traveling. But Clear Sports, the free tier of Clear, will give you expedited entry into 19 stadiums around the country, which could be a time-saver for season ticket holders who attend many games each year. If you live in one of the cities where it's offered -- and you're OK with Clear having your biometric data -- this free service is worth checking out. Clear also has another free service called Health Pass that works as a vaccine passport, letting you gain entry into venues that require proof of vaccination.

Finally, as you might suspect: If you're a real stickler for privacy, you might want to skip all of these services.

Are TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, Clear and NEXUS safe?

Global Entry, TSA PreCheck and NEXUS are government programs, while Clear is a private corporation. But if you use any of the services, you'll be surrendering a lot of personal information, including fingerprints -- and your face.

In Clear's case, the company's website says: "We never sell or rent personal information. Personal information is only used to deliver a frictionless and secure experience with Clear."

For Global Entry and TSA PreCheck, you're surrendering your information to the federal government. That gives many people pause, especially since the government has shown it's no better than corporations at keeping data safe. From the SolarWinds breach to the US Treasury and Commerce departments getting hacked, the feds have a pretty dismal reputation. And US Customs and Border Protection -- the agency that administers Global Entry and co-administers NEXUS -- has admitted that traveler photos were compromised in a cyberattack

None of these systems are ideal for folks who value privacy. However, while arguing for higher privacy standards is a worthy debate, it's not going to get you through the security line any faster. For better or worse, increased convenience will mean sacrificing some degree of privacy, whether that's to the airlines, the government or a private corporation. 

Can you get TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, Clear or NEXUS at a discount?

You can get all of these programs at a discount by using certain credit cards. There are many travel credit cards that offer application fee discounts for TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and NEXUS. Select American Express credit cards offer CLEAR application discounts.

While getting access to these programs at a discount is great, you shouldn't choose a credit card based solely on program access. Consider the card's other perks as well. More often than not, credit cards with these perks also charge an annual fee, so you'll want to be sure you get enough value from its perks and rewards to justify the cost.

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